How Persuasive are The New PC vs Mac ads?
Sunday morning, Bonus round.
I’ll be back blogging on facial expressions and body language this week at my usual times (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). But today, I’m responding to some tech ‘news,’ related to persuasion and how effective advertisements are at connecting with potential customers.
You see, the next round of ads are out, hyping the idea that there’s a price advantage when buying a PC instead of a Mac. This isn’t the first time for this particular claim. While ‘cheap’ certainly applies to the construction of PCs, the argument of ‘cheaper’ in price doesn’t generally hold up. Well, not unless one leaves out such things as quality and the cost of ownership, customer satisfaction and ease of use, and instead focuses exclusively on the cost of the initial purchase. But let’s put that aside for the moment and consider the ads themselves. In my opinion, they’re clever. And they’re getting a lot of press.
Spin Spin Spin
Unfortunately and primarily, the press is again doing spin instead of its job of examining claims and protecting consumers. This morning I read these headlines. Fortune.com says ‘ Is the Apple press falling into Microsoft’s trap? ‘ Forbes has ‘Microsoft’s Latest Mac Attack.’ Meanwhile, over at CNET, we read, ‘Microsoft gets beautifully picky in new Mac attack.’ And ZDNet joyfully proclaims ‘New Windows ad hits a nerve (again)’
Here’s the ad:
What these articles and posts have in common is the claim that outraged Mac users are having intensely negative reactions to the campaign, and that their reaction makes them (and the computers they love) look effete, snobbish, not normal for ‘regular’ folks. Ironically, regular folks like parents, college students, business people and the like who already like and use Apple products won’t find this compelling at all. It may, however, stop some of the bleeding off of the PC user base, and convince people that don’t know or are unable to think any different that thinking different isn’t such a good idea anyway.
Apple’s ‘Mac vs PC’ ads had playful fun with the way competing products running Windows worked, leveraging the feelings PC users already had. The new PC ads simply try to make Apple look bad. And they’ve found a clever way to do it.
I get why they want this to be true. They’re after eyeballs, they love to stoke the fire of controversy, and the truth is irrelevant when you can create soap opera and promote conflict. As the saying goes, no news is good news, and good news is no news, at least as far as the sensibilities of MSM (main stream media). Media is all about entertainment now. Heck, I’m blogging about it, and hoping it draws your interest! Getting more hits and comments is what we’re all all about.
Here’s the thing. None of my nerves have been hit, I don’t feel attacked and I’m not in a trap.
I’m a Mac guy.
I have been a Mac guy for years. Bought an autographed Apple IIGS, bought the first Mac with a disk drive and just about every model since, either for myself, my daughter, or someone else in my family. I like to think that it’s thanks to my influence that most of my friends over the years have quit wrestling with their PCs and switched to Macs. (Yes, there are still about five of you who haven’t, that’s ok, I get it, it’s just a machine, a tool, it does what you need it to, etc. etc.
I’ve been a rider on the Apple PR rollercoaster for 24 years. Apple struggled mightily in the early 90s, and I was there. They made bad marketing decisions but great products. I was in love with Apple products (still am!) My Mac was a friend, a helper, a facilitator of my dreams and ambitions (still is, as is my iPhone!) So when the press treated Apple unfairly (and it did!), I spoke up, wrote in, vented my hurt and anger (hard to believe, looking back, that I felt such strong emotion over cold technology, but love is love!)
I was a Mac Evangelista with Guy Kawasaki. I had posters and bumper stickers like, “Sluggo says, FIGHT BACK FOR THE MAC” and “You can take my Mac when you pry the mouse from my cold dead fingers.” I remember what it’s like to walk into a computer store and be treated like your business isn’t welcome. I remember hearing the lies told by the convenience store clerks hired by the Medford computer store to sell cheap PCs to unknowledgeable consumers, lies like “There’s no software for the Mac” and “Apple is going bankrupt” or “Apple will be bought by Sun.” I remember the countless headlines about “Beleaguered Apple Releases New Products,” in which amazing new products would be smeared because they were coming from a company with no hope of survival. I’ve witnessed plenty of FUD in my day (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt sown in thousands of articles, headlines and media reports questioning Apple’s will to live or ability to survive, from a press all too willing to prostitute its principles for the almighty ad dollar.) Thankfully, those days are behind us.
The Ads Are Persuasive
And, on a persuasion level, I like the PC ads. They do a fine job of telling a misleading story to uneducated consumers. If you’re just tuning in, the story told in the ads is that cool people looking for deals on computers get more value by purchasing a PC running the Windows operating system than they would buying a Mac (whose only advantage is that Macs are ‘bathed in unicorn tears’ as one PC PR hack sarcastically puts it). The ads then take a backhanded slap at the coolness factor associated with Apple through careful advertising cultivation these last few years.
If quality doesn’t matter, but price is the point, the ad makes the point. Buy a cheap PC dressed up in pretty underwear and feel cool for having done so. In a time of recession, this is a compelling argument. We’re all trying to conserve our resources for an uncertain future and we need tools to keep our dreams alive. Pinching pennies is the pitch, and it works because it’s what we’re doing. The ad meets consumers where they are. If I didn’t know someone who recently bought an HP Pavillion and then went through hell trying to get it to work, got no help from the company, and ultimately sent it in to them and never got any money or even the product back, if I hadn’t heard these kinds of horror stories personally, I’d be persuaded that there was good news on the cheap computer front.
The Real Campaign Isn’t In The Ads
But I have heard the stories. And here’s where I think the press is missing the story. Apple is advertising through it’s happy owners. Just this past week, I heard great customer service stories about Apple from two different people, and had one of my own as well. Apple builds quality products, their operating system is fun and easy to use, the service is often astonishing, and the community of users is friendly and helpful instead of haters and cynics (unicorn tears? Harumph!)
What do you think? Your comments are welcome!
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.